Blimp pilots, food stylists and pet acupuncturists are not on many job hunters' lists. These unusual job titles may sound like they have nothing in common, but the people who hold them have all forged their own unique career paths.
Jerry Hissem spends countless hours among the clouds doing what he loves – flying the Goodyear blimp.
As assistant pilot in charge at the company's headquarters in Akron, Ohio, Hissem
leads a 20-man crew of people and makes sure operations run smoothly in the air.
Pilots typically spend 180 to 200 days out of the year flying, but Hissem enjoys his job so much that if given the opportunity to fly every single day, he would take it.
'I kind of compare [flying] to floating in a bubble,' Hissem said. 'I could stay in [the blimp] all day.'
Hissem always thought that he was destined for a career in engineering. After taking an introductory class in the aviation department at Ohio State University, however, he felt inspired to switch his degree program.
'I was hooked. The study of aviation sparked a passion,' Hissem said. 'That passion is what makes learning easy and drives one to learn more.'
The Goodyear blimp travels across the country and Hissem has visited many towns, but his favorite place to fly is Manhattan because of the scenic view.
Hissem has flown over the Kentucky Derby, pre-games for football events, charity events and outside Cleveland Cavalier basketball games.
According to Hissem, pilot jobs are few and far between, so after he completed his aviation training and was offered a job flying at Goodyear, he was overjoyed.
'If [someone] told me when I was younger that I would be flying a Goodyear blimp in my own hometown, I would have thought, ‘You're crazy,' Hissem said. 'Truly, I was on cloud nine.'
Friends and family love Hissem's choice of career and he could not picture doing anything else.
'It's kind of unique to think that no one else has your job,' Hissem said.
Karen Temple makes food look pretty.
She arranges succulent dishes, delectable deserts and colorful beverages for advertisements, television, magazines and film.
Temple, who lives in New York City, has been in her profession for over 25 years and has worked with a long list of clientele, including Nabisco Cracker and Cookies, Goya Foods, Absolut Vodka, Self Magazine, Reader's Digest and Nickelodeon.
Temple did not even know the career of food stylist existed until she began working as a production assistant for a commercial company and was asked if she could bake.
Soon after, Temple began experimenting with other kinds of foods. She quickly learned that food styling was something she wanted to try, so she became a freelancer and has been working on her own ever since.
Temple prepares all of the food that is photographed. If she does not know how to prepare something, she researches.
'Much of it is self-taught,' Temple said. 'Cooking is a chemistry and the rules don't change because of photography.'
Freelance food styling is not an everyday job. There are good and bad days, and work is not a guarantee.
The unknown can sometimes be exciting, though, explains Temple.
'It's not boring,' Temple said. 'You're not going to the same place every day and there's always a new project to work on.'
The amount of freedom and creativity that food stylists are allotted is dependent on the client. Working with different types of people has taught Temple that collaboration and cooperation are key.
'Some clients will worry about in which direction each rice kernel is pointed, and others will walk in and say, ‘It's beautiful, just shoot it,' Temple said.
Temple believes that the job outlook for food stylists has become increasingly competitive because more schools are teaching courses catered to the profession and advanced photo-editing programs have replaced many stylists.
Temple cautions those who may consider a job as a freelancer.
'Food styling seems to be on its way out,' Temple said.
Dr. Karen Lanz knew since sixth grade that she wanted to work with animals when she grew up, but she never thought that she would become a certified veterinary acupuncturist.
'When I was in vet school, I didn't really know what acupuncture was,' Lanz said. 'I learned a lot about alternative medicine on my own.'
Lanz opened her own small animal private practice, Healing Hands Pet Acupuncture, shortly after graduating from the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Louisville, Kentucky.
She explains that acupuncture is an ancient, traditional Chinese procedure that utilizes needles and massages to stimulate points on the body in order to elicit a response. Lanz performs house calls and uses the techniques on smaller dog breeds with arthritis, asthma and other health-related problems.
'Alternative medicine is becoming more and more recognized,' Lanz said. 'My patients have tried other things, but most are looking for a treatment that is more natural.'
Summer internships and training programs became available to Lanz and allowed her to explore new techniques. She recommends to students who show interest in a particular field of study to go seek hands-on experience.
'Follow your instinct. If you have an interest in a career, go shadow somebody,' Lanz said. 'You get an idea of how you think something is, but when you actually go do it, your experiences might be different.'